South Carolina ESL Teacher Job Description and Certification Requirements

ESL teachers in South Carolina act as a bridge between the state’s English language learners and the opportunities for success that native English speakers enjoy. The importance of ESL teachers in South Carolina could not be overstated. Recent and telling figures released by the National Center for Education Statistics reveal that over the course of the last decade the percentage of English language learners in South Carolina’s schools has increased by more than 800 percent. Statewide, in 2012 there were nearly 39,000 students who participated in programs for English language learners.

To become an ESL teacher in South Carolina – also referred to as an ESOL teacher (English for Speakers of Other Languages) – you will need to meet the qualification guidelines that have been determined by the State Board of Education. As you complete the following steps towards licensure, you will be working with the Department of Education’s Office of Educator Services:

Earn a Degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL)
Pass the Required South Carolina Exams
Apply for a South Carolina Teaching License
Renew and Upgrade Your Teaching License



Step 1. Earn a Degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL)

As you start down the path of fulfilling the TESOL certification requirements in South Carolina your first task will be to earn at least a bachelor’s degree. Earning a bachelor’s degree in TESOL will prepare you for success on the content knowledge test you must take, while also fulfilling the ESL licensure eligibility requirements.

As you complete your degree you must also take part in a teacher preparation program that is approved by the State Board of Education. These programs are offered at colleges and universities across the state. Your teacher preparation program will place an intensive focus on pedagogy and culminate in a student teaching segment where you will be placed in a classroom and work under the guidance of an experienced mentor teacher.

*Capella University offers an online Master’s program in English Language Learning and Teaching designed to help educators advance their career in supporting diverse student populations. While it does not satisfy licensure requirements, the program can help you build the skills to use instructional strategies, emerging trends, and best practices to effectively teach English Language Learners and help students adapt to new cultural environments.

*The USC Rossier School of Education offers its Master of Arts in Teaching - Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (MAT-TESOL) program online, allowing current and aspiring educators to earn a master’s degree from a top-ranked university and specialize in teaching English to non-native speakers - from anywhere in the world.

If you already have a bachelor’s degree you can complete a Program of Alternative Certification for Educators (PACE). This takes the place of a teacher preparation program and also focuses on developing key pedagogical skills you will need to be an effective ESL teacher. Take note that there are currently no PACE programs for ESL licensure, however you can gain a teaching license in a subject that is offered through PACE such as English, and then add TESOL certification on to this.

To be eligible for a license to teach ESOL either as your primary subject area or to add this certification to an existing license, you will need to have completed the following courses:

  • Three semester credits in the principles and strategies for teaching ESOL to secondary and elementary learners
  • Three semester credits in linguistics
  • Three semester credits in teaching writing and reading to English language learners
  • Six semester credits in an ESOL practicum, which may be substituted for with one year of ESOL teaching experience
  • Any two of the following courses:
    • Testing and assessments for language minority learners
    • ESOL curriculum design and materials development
    • Content area English teaching
    • Bilingual special education
    • Acquisition of a secondary language for teachers of elementary and secondary students
    • English grammar and structure
    • Cultural diversity and education

You will also need to have experience with a secondary language in any one of the following ways:

  • Six semesters of study in a second language
  • Intensive language training from the Peace Corps, Defense Language Institute, or Foreign Service Institute
  • Placement in a junior-level (3rd year) language course at a college or university
  • Proven proficiency in a second language that is not offered at a college or university

When completing your foreign language requirement, consider the five most common languages of English language learners in South Carolina:

  • Spanish
  • French
  • Chinese
  • Russian
  • German

You can find these courses offered at approved colleges or universities throughout the state.



Step 2. Pass the Required South Carolina Exams

The ESL teacher job description in South Carolina states that you must be a proven teacher who is competent and qualified. To prove this, you must pass three exams to be eligible for licensure, all of which are administered by Educational Testing Service (ETS):

  • Core Academic Skills for Educators – an assessment of your basic skills in essential subject areas
  • Principles of Learning and Teaching – an assessment of your knowledge in the fields of teaching and pedagogy
  • English to Speakers of Other Languages – an assessment of your specific knowledge in the field of ESL

The Core Academic Skills for Educators exam is administered in three sub-tests to ensure that you have the essential communication abilities required to be a teacher in any field. This test is often required for entry into a teacher preparation program and covers basic subject-area knowledge. You can take the subject tests all at once or on separate occasions:

The Principles of Learning and Teaching Exam is offered according to grade levels, and you should take the exam for the grades you intend to teach:

You will have two hours to complete this exam, which will evaluate your knowledge in the area of pedagogy and not specifically ESL. The test is comprised of 70 multiple-choice and four constructed-response questions covering the topics of:

  • Instructional process
  • Students as learners
  • Choosing and evaluating assessments
  • Leadership, professional development, and the community
  • Analysis of scenarios pertaining to these subject areas

The English to Speakers of Other Languages Exam lasts two hours, during which time you will answer 120 questions that pertain to the following subjects:

  • Foundations of language learning and linguistics
  • The planning, management, and implementation of instruction
  • ESL assessments, their strengths, and their limitations
  • Cultural and professional aspects of being an ESL teacher



Step 3. Apply for a South Carolina Teaching License

Once you have fulfilled the qualifications up to this point you will be ready to apply for an ESL/ESOL teaching license with the Department of Education, Office of Educator Services. Your application can be completed online or emailed, faxed, or mailed to 8301 Parklane Road; Columbia, SC 29223. A complete application packet will include:

  • Application
  • Official college and university transcripts
  • Your teacher preparation program’s official recommendation
  • ETS testing scores sent to the Office by ETS
  • Successful criminal background check completed through IdentGo

If your application is accepted you will be awarded an Initial Certification that will be valid for three years. Once you have this you can start searching for ESL jobs in South Carolina using resources such as the state’s online Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention, and Advancement (CERRA).



Step 4. Renew and Upgrade Your Teaching License

As soon as you find employment as an ESL teacher you will want to enroll in South Carolina’s teacher evaluation program known by the acronym ADEPT (Assisting, Developing, and Evaluating Professional Teaching). As part of the ADEPT program you will need to complete three tasks:

  • Long-range plan
  • Self-assessment
  • Professional growth development plan

Once you have identified these and as you complete them, you will meet with members of your ADEPT evaluation team, who will provide guidance and suggestions to improve your teaching effectiveness. After working with your ADEPT team for a significant period of time you will be given a cumulative ADEPT evaluation. Your team will review the progress of your three completed tasks and consider other factors such as your students’ achievement when conducting your evaluation. This entire process can take more than a year to complete.

After a minimum of three years, and once you have had a successful ADEPT evaluation, you will be able to upgrade your teaching certification to a Professional Certificate, which is valid for five years. To renew your Professional Certificate you must complete a designated number of renewal credits. One of the ways many ESL teachers earn these credits is by taking graduate-level courses or earning a master’s degree such as an M.Ed., M.A.T., or MATL. Earning renewal credit is not the only reason to obtain a master’s degree either.

The level of your license can also increase as you gain a higher education, along with contributing to job security and salary benefits. The license levels in South Carolina are ranked as follows:

  • A – Bachelor’s degree
  • B – Bachelor’s degree plus 18 graduate-level semester credits
  • C – Master’s degree
  • D – Master’s degree plus 30 semester credits of graduate-level coursework or a specialist degree approved by the State Board of Education
  • E – Doctoral degree

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